Smith ‘mistake’ exposes ‘fearless cricket’ fallacy

Former Test captain Mark Taylor says Australia was lured into a “thrash and bash” mentality for the T20 World Cup which led to Steve Smith’s omission from the playing XI for the majority of the tournament.

The post mortems have begun and Smith’s absence from the team, apart from the last group match against Afghanistan, has sparked leading voices in the game to suggest that Australia got it wrong.

Australia was eliminated on net run-rate after England’s last over, four wicket win over Sri Lanka on Saturday.

New Zealand, England and Australia all finished with seven points from five matches in Group 1 but the Kiwis topped the group with a healthy net run-rate of +2.113.

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The hosts paid the price for a heavy loss to New Zealand in the opening game and finished with at a net run-rate of -0.173. England had a net run-rate of +0.473.

Against Ireland, Australia had the opportunity to cancel out the difference with a big win but a lacklustre final 10 overs allowed the Irish to get within 42 runs of Australia’s total, opening the door to the possibility of an early exit.

Australia stacked its middle order with power as Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, and Tim David played ahead of Smith. But according to Taylor, the former skipper’s experience was needed at crucial points of the campaign.

Smith’s performance against Afghanistan has drawn criticism, with former Indian batter Aakash Chopra suggesting the former skipper’s time in the short format may be up.

While Taylor accepts a more youthful approach is needed for the 2024 tournament, not playing Smith backfired.

“It’s difficult for me to see Steve Smith miss out on any game for Australia,” he told Nine’s Sports Sunday.

“They went into the tournament saying they were going to play fearless cricket which is great but I think preferring Tim David over Steve Smith in that batting order has been a mistake.”

While most T20 World Cups have been decided by aggressive cricket, Taylor believes the wetter conditions turned things on its head for the 2022 tournament.

The lack of adjusting to the pitches and sticking to a uniform plan that didn’t include Smith, led to the Australians struggling when they needed a wise head at the crease to provide leadership in the middle overs.

“As we’ve seen in this tournament, pitches have done it big, you need someone like a Steve Smith. New Zealand had Kane Williamson.

“India had Virat Kohli, who has been the player of the tournament, to steady the ship in the middle overs. It hasn’t been a thrash and bash tournament, you’ve needed someone to guide the innings and Australia sadly lacked a Steve Smith in that middle order.”

Looking ahead, Taylor says change is inevitable and the selectors will embrace a younger team.

“It hasn’t been a disastrous tournament for Australia. They’ve missed out on run rate so they haven’t played that badly,” Taylor said.

“But they will need to make some changes over the next couple of years. The next T20 World Cup is June, 2024.

“Four of our top batters, David Warner, Aaron Finch, they’re both 36, Steve Smith is 33 and Matthew Wade is 34. I suspect you’ll see some changes and young guys coming through.”

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